Revised regulations to protect workers from asbestos to kick in from May 30

SINGAPORE - Revised regulations for better protection of workers from exposure to asbestos - mineral fibres in construction material that can cause diseases - will take effect from May 30. That is when the Workplace Safety and Health (Asbestos) Regulations will replace the existing Factories (Asbestos) Regulations.

Under the new rules, an asbestos survey must be carried out before any work involving certain materials or before building works such as demolition or alteration. This must be done by someone with enough experience and training and who has passed the Survey Asbestos and Other Fibres Risks at the Workplace Course, under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications framework.

Identified asbestos-containing material must be removed before demolition, and this can be done only by an Approved Asbestos-Removal Contractor (AARC). This is a new scheme, and contractors can apply to be an AARC from May 30 onwards.

Employers and contractors must also take measures to minimise the release and spread of asbestos during work, such as wetting asbestos-containing material. Previously, they were only required to provide exhaust ventilation for work involving asbestos.

The new regulations, which are in line with international practices, were developed in consultation with workplace safety and health professionals, contractors, employers and employees. A month-long public consultation in July 2013 was also conducted to gather feedback on the proposed regulations.

Those who do not comply with the regulations could face a fine of up to $20,000, two years' jail, or both.